Whether you want to know how solar panels work, wonder what happens to your system if there’s a black-out or whether you need to change your meter, our Frequently Asked Questions below should answer just about all of your questions.
What are some of the biggest benefits of going solar?
Receive a great return on investment. You’ll see immediate reductions in your power bill and could possibly even eliminate your energy bill completely! If you install a system equal to your current power consumption, you can completely wipe out your power bill and save hundreds of dollars every year.
Reduce your carbon footprint. Greenhouse gas emissions are undoubtedly a huge issue. Installing a solar system is a positive way to help reduce your carbon footprint, whilst feeding clean energy into the grid system for others to use and being paid to do so through Feed-In Tariffs. Plus, installing a solar panel system and becoming a self-sufficient mini-power station is the best way to avoid being hit by the Carbon Tax.
Increase your home’s value. While eliminating your power bill and helping make the world a greener place, you’ll also increase your home’s value in the process. With the cost of power rising, installing a solar panel system will help eliminate a large bill, which is a valuable asset and valuation feature when assessing your property value.
How do solar cells work?
Solar cells work by converting visible light into electricity through a process called the photovoltaic effect. Photons in visible light hit the solar cell and are absorbed by the semi-conducting material (which in most cases is silicon), creating an electron hole which another electron must fill. This causes movement in the electrons thus creating a flow of electricity.
How does a solar grid connect system work?
Solar grid connect systems work by connecting many cells and panels together to reach a desired power output, for example 1.5kw – 5kw. This needs to be converted to match the everyday electricity supply, typically 230volts AC. To do this, an inverter is used to filter the power to the correct values so it can be used for day-to-day power needs. Any excess is fed back to your energy supplier and is bought back.
Can you install panels anywhere?
Wherever the sun shines you can usually install solar panels. The direction the panels face in relation to the sun makes differences in power output. In the southern hemisphere, a northerly direction is best.
The angle in relation to the horizon also needs to be considered as does the degree of latitude you live in, which equates to the perfect angle for panels. Perth is at 32 degrees latitude, so that’s the best angle to have your panels. Most roofs have an angle close to this, ranging from 15 – 45 degrees.
Will shading the solar panels affect the productivity of the panel?
In order for your solar system to work at full capacity, the solar panels must be free of dirt or shading from trees, shrubs, or any other obstructions. Even slight shading from roof antennas or exhaust fans can cause the panels to not function at their peak.
Will my solar system produce energy on cloudy days and be effective in winter?
Yes it will, although the amount of energy produced will be less than on days with full sun.
Surprisingly solar PV systems actually work more efficiently in colder conditions. Photovoltaic panels rely on visible light not heat for their energy production. In Australia, we have ideal conditions for solar in winter with many sunny but cold days and generally no issues with snow on the panels. Naturally though there will be less total production in winter because sunlight hours are shorter and the sun is lower in the horizon.
Does my solar system need to be faced directly north to be fully-functioning?
Not necessarily. Ideally we would install your system on a north-facing roof, but we find that solar systems placed on either eastern or western-facing roof sections function quite well also, only losing about 5% – 10% of efficiency depending on the angle of the roof. Anywhere from north-east to north-west is preferred.
How much maintenance is required?
A grid connect system requires little maintenance because there are no moving parts or components. Generally the solar panels are self-cleaning with rainfall. However, if there is a noticeable amount of dust or debris on the panels due to long periods without rain, we recommend you to wash them to gain maximum output. Prune trees and bushes that may shade the panels.
How should I choose my system size?
Depending on your energy consumption and your current financial situation, Australis Solar can discuss and supply different solar packages which fit your needs and budget.
How can I be sure the system size I’ve ordered will fit my roof space?
With each enquiry we perform a free aerial measurement of all roof spaces to provide you with an accurate visual assessment of space to ensure the system requested will fit comfortably on the roof. Our customers enjoy being able to visualize where their system will be placed before we even get on their roof. This also allows us to identify any shading issues, caused by nearby trees or obstructions, which can be rectified before installation.
How do I figure out how much electricity I consume?
On the front right hand side of your Synergy bill, there is a comparison graph and below it is your Average Daily Consumption Rate, indicating how many units per day your household consumes.
How can I tell how well my system is performing?
To calculate the average daily units of electricity produced by your system count the number of days your system has been connected to the power grid and divide the number of units displayed on the inverter screen by the number of days.
Is it possible to increase the size of my solar PV system?
This depends on roof space availability and the size of your inverter. If you have sufficient roof space and a large enough inverter, it’s usually quite simple to add additional panels to the system. Please contact us for further information on upgrading your system.
How long does the whole process take?
Once we start with the paperwork, it can take between 2 – 4 weeks to have your panels operational. This obviously depends on current work load and grid connection approvals.
Do I need to be home for the installation?
Yes, though you aren’t required to be there for the whole installation. Generally you’ll be needed for approximately the first half an hour to allow the installers access to the premises and to answer any questions. You will need to be available at the end of the installation to sign off and be shown how the system works.
How long does installation take?
Depending on the size of the system and the accessibility of your roof space, installation can take anywhere between 2 – 8 hours. Installs are generally done on the same day.
Energy Saving Advice
Electric hot water generally uses about 1/3 of household power. Changing to solar or gas hot water will substantially reduce this component.
The biggest power users in a typical home are air conditioners and heaters, swimming pool pumps (see Futurewave product info), spa pumps, old refrigerators and freezers, electric stoves, halogen down lights and large plasma TVs. Reducing the usage of these where possible to save on your power bills.
Phantom loads, such as the little red lights and appliances on standby all add up to substantial amounts of power as well. Switch off at the wall where possible.
Change your halogen lighting to an energy efficient alternative, compact fluorescents or LEDs.
Will I still have power during a black-out?
No. For safety reasons, inverters are designed to shut down when there is a black-out to prevent any issues for those working to restore power. The system will automatically restart when power comes back on.
There are options available to keep power running in a home during black-outs, such as UPS systems with battery and/or diesel/petrol generators as back-up. These systems are generally costly but are rapidly coming down in price.
Your solar system is rated by the solar PV input, (i.e. 10 x 250 watt panels = 2500watts or 2.5kW input). The important thing to remember is that this rating of 2.5kW is the rating under STC (Standard Test Conditions). This means that exactly 1000watts of sunlight hits 1 square meter at exactly the correct angle and at a cell temperature of 25°C in a controlled test environment. Real world conditions have many variances in sunlight intensity, angle of the sun and cell temperature. In Australia on a hot day it is possible for a solar panel to reach temperatures of 85°C, this is up to 50°C above the STC. Because all solar panels are made from a semiconductor material usually Silicon, they conduct electricity better the colder they are. Solar panels are derated from 0.3% to 0.5% per degree above 25°C. This means that on a hot day, a 25% derating in power output is possible (85°C - 25°C = 50°C x 0.5% = 25% derating). As well as derating due to temperature, there are also some small cable losses (1% to 4%), inverter conversion losses (3% to 5%) and dirt and dust on panel losses (5%).
Australis Solar quotes all customers with conservative output estimates based on the real world conditions, deducting all expected derating losses based on CEC guidelines. The output estimates is stated in kWh or Units. this is the same unit of energy that is stated on your power bill.
Do I need to change my meter?
In order to sell the unused excess electricity your solar system produces, Synergy requires a digital meter to track the amount of energy your system feeds back into the power grid. If you currently use a digital meter, then the meter can be reprogrammed for a fee of $66. Installing a new digital meter costs between $176 and $268, depending on whether the meter is a single or three phase meter. Synergy also charges a $40 administrative fee and all charges will appear on your next Synergy bill.
There are several different types of bidirectional meters in WA, to learn how to read your meter, please read the following western power fact sheets.
Is Australis Solar a qualified Clean Energy Council (CEC) member?
Yes, we are a proud CEC member and use only accredited CEC installers.
Who will install my solar system?
We have our own team of professionally-qualified installers and electricians that complete most of our installations. We also use carefully selected certified CEC subcontractors who have been approved by Australis Solar’s strict quality standards.
Where is Australis Solar based?
Perth based, Australis Solar is a West Australian owned and operated business.
How much will I have to pay up front?
We usually ask for a 20% deposit on sign-up and the remaining balance to be paid on the day of installation. Or take advantage of our easy payment plans.
What rebates do the Government currently offer and how do they work?
Renewable Energy Buyback Scheme
The Renewable Energy Buyback Scheme is still available, currently if you feed excess energy back into the grid, you will receive 8.4 cents per kWh. (note: as at July 2012)
Renewable Energy Certificates
The RET (renewable energy target) was created by the government in a commitment to achieve a 20% renewable share of Australia’s electricity supply by 2020. To meet this target the government introduced the Renewable Energy Certificates (REC) program. (note the scheme was replaced on 1 January 2011), and is still an umbrella term covering both Small-scale and Large-scale certificates.
The Small-scale Technology Certificate (STC)
Small-scale technology certificates (STCs) are created by eligible installations of solar water heaters, air source heat pump water heaters and small generation units (small-scale solar photovoltaic panels, wind and hydro electricity systems).
The Large-scale Generation Certificate (LGC)
Large-scale renewable energy projects such as wind and solar farms, and hydro-electric schemes, are entitled to create LGCs.
Renewable energy certificates are basically a stock or share that is traded on the STC market. Certificates can be created for every 1Mwh of electricity generated by a small-scale renewable generation unit. The price of these certificates fluctuates as the share market does.
Solar Credits is a mechanism which increases the number of STCs able to be created for eligible installations of SGUs through the use of a multiplier.
Solar Credits apply to the first 1.5 kilowatts (kW) of capacity installed in an eligible premises (see below)
Generation from capacity above 1.5 kW, either on the original unit or on any additional capacity installed at a later date, will still be eligible for the standard 1:1 rate of REC creation.
The current SRES Legislation multiplier is as follows.
Installation Period Multiplier
1 July 2010 - 30 June 2011 5 x [number of eligible STCs]
1 July 2011 - 30 June 2012 3 x [number of eligible STCs]
1 July 2012 - 31 December 2012 2 x [number of eligible STCs]
1 January 2013 - onwards 1 x [number of eligible STCs]
To make things simple, Australis Solar handles all the paperwork on your behalf. We also factor in the savings from the STC's directly into our prices.
For more information visit the website for the Office of the Renewable Energy Regulator.
Australis Solar is committed to providing the highest quality in material and technical support. We purchase system components from internationally renowned manufacturers, specifically for photovoltaic and Solar thermal applications.
All solar Panels have a 10 year product warranty and a 25 year output warranty. For inverters please refer to the specific products page for exact details about the warranty conditions.
In addition to product warranties Australis Solar provide's a 24 month workmanship guarantee from date of installation.
Upon completion of an installation you will be provided with an installation pack, which includes an Owner’s Manual, product specification sheets and factory warranties for panels, inverters and railing. It also contains general information on the operation of the solar system, safety instructions, shutdown procedures, maintenance checklist, trouble shooting and numbers for technical assistance.
Australis Solar is committed to providing the best customer support and can be contacted on 1300 925 088 for technical support and service.
I was kept informed at all stages and was given clear guidance and assistance with all the associated paperwork. The installing team arrived on time as planned, were friendly, polite and did a great job. Would highly recommend them.